A Charlie Chaplin video is causing political trouble in Thailand. A clip from The Great Dictator, the 1940 parody on Adolf Hitler has been made unavailable on YouTube for Thai viewers, following a request by the military-led government.
According to local reports, it all started on 11 June, when the Thai Academic Network of Civil Rights urged people to watch the speech from the film in which Chaplin encourages people to take back control from the autocratic power. The aim behind promoting the video, which was available with Thai subtitles, was to target the current administrative power, which is heavily controlled by the military.
On 24 June, viewers reported that the video was no longer available on YouTube and the page simply displayed the message: "This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government."
"What a dumbass. When everyone knows that a movie satirizes Hitler; why would you do anything to suggest that you see some of yourself in the character?" one individual commented online.
The group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights believes the request to block the video was probably made by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.
Locals took to Twitter and Facebook to criticise the junta's gag order and presumably the wave of criticism caused the video to be made available again on 27 June onward.
Veteran journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk described the move as "hilariously insane and dictatorial" while the Bangkok Post slammed the "aggressive censorship" of the government. "Who instructed YouTube to block access to Thai viewers will likely remain a mystery. But the truly mysterious question is 'why'?" it questioned in an editorial.
"Before the clip was blocked, it had been watched by a few dozen people. Now that the regime has made it famous, and YouTube has properly unblocked it, more than 13,000 had clicked to watch as of press time."